Let me give you some context. For the last four years I’ve been writing dramatic sketches for the annual All Saints Church parish camp. It’s a regular gig for which I get to write stuff, see it performed by a bunch of bloody brilliant professional/semi-professional actors, and show it off to a small but appreciative audience. From the British perspective Americans are very good at overblown compliments, and actors who are also Americans are even better at them, and I drink it all down like champagne. Actually that’s not a good simile because I don’t actually like champagne. So I drink it all down like, I don’t know, craft IPA. I love actors. They get it.
Now, I grant you, what I write for this event is not always super original. It’s usually pastiche (aka fanfic) of some kind of another: we’ve done Pirates of the Caribbean, Dr. Seuss, Where the Wild Things Are, and Dr. Who. But it’s my annual five minutes of fame. I get applause.
I’ve been writing in one way or another for most of my adult life and there doesn’t seem to be much chance of me stopping any time soon. I’ve sent many manuscripts to many agents and publishers and, apart from a handful of published articles and short stories, all I’ve gotten back is no-thank-yous—if I get anything back at all; and yet I keep writing. My point is, it doesn’t seem to be just the desire for recognition and an audience that prompts me to keep writing; if it was I’d have given up a long time ago. I just write. My writing may not be outstandingly good or original but it sure ain’t going away.
But that annual five minutes of parish camp fame is incredibly important to me. From the initial planning stages to the event itself I’m in a state of suppressed anticipation. The weekend itself is spent in a haze of nervous energy which I have to work to hide from my fellow campers. And then the comedown is kind of brutal. I struggle to settle back to everyday life. I trawl social media for photos. I act like a junkie needing a fix. OK, so my coping mechanisms don’t actually involve hitting the bottle or scoring crack or picking up strangers in bars, but it is definitely a bit rough.
So there is something addictive, and not especially mentally healthy, about getting recognition for something creative I’ve done. I wonder if it’s really a good idea to subject my not-always-super-robust sense of self-worth to this miniature roller-coaster, year after year.
Is that going to stop me? Um, no.